Archive | September, 2011

Review: Hourglass by Myra McEntire

13 Sep

Series: Hourglass, book #1

Published: June 14th 2011 by Egmont USA

Details: Hardcover, 397 pages

My Rating: 4/5

My Summary:

A great read featuring Emerson, who since her parents death can see ghosts. She meets Michael, the consult her brother has hired, and her world turns upside down. I loved the dialogues, the heroine and the intriguing plot, but thought the romance and the villains were too clicheed. Still a hugely entertaining read, and I plan to continue the series.

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A few chapters in:

I have just started reading Hourglass, not to be confused with the third book of Claudia Gray’s Evernight Series. Instead, this is a debut from author Myra McEntire, and it involves time travel and an “explosively delicious romance”, if to believe a statement by Beth Ravis (author of Across the Universe) at the blurb of the book.

It also received a stunning review from yareads, which as you know I follow very closely.

Enough said, I got myself a copy and I’m now a few chapters in:

Emerson Cole is a 17-year old with a rather unusual problem. She sees ghosts. Generally, these ghosts are people from the past and the only way to make them disappear is by touching them.

Her well-meaning brother Thomas and his wife Dru are of course worried about Emerson’s strange ability (or craziness) and they’ve done everything in their power to help her, including a number of shrinks and medications. As we enter the story, Thomas as just hired another one of these “consults” for Emerson.

This one however is different from the others. For one, he is only a few years older than Emerson. Secondly, he is absolutely gorgeous. And thirdly he has the very same ability to see “ghosts” as Emerson.

All great news. Except for the fact that Michael, as he is called, seems to hide something, and this is somehow related to the mysterious organization Hourglass which he is working for. What secrets exactly he is hiding I don’t know yet, but I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough.

And so far, I am really enjoying this! I like the smart, spunky heroine, the witty dialogue and the unpredictable story line. Let’s just hope it continues this way!
 
 
 

 
 
 
After finishing the book:

So here’s the deal, I thought Hourglass was a very entertaining read. It had that quality about it that forced me to continue, the kind of book that won’t let go. Just need to read one more chapter, okay just one more.. one more until Oops it’s 2 am! How did that happen?

That being said, it wasn’t perfect. Meaning, it was not the type of book that upon finishing it had me thinking about it for days afterwards. There were a few things I found myself questioning and a few cliché’s that had my eyes rolling, but which I chose to ignore because I was so into the unraveling mystery.

So yep, hugely entertaining, that’s for sure. Yet not a book to die for. Do I make sense? Probably not. I’ll explain a bit more:

What I loved:

I loved the heroine, let’s get that one straight. She was the type of heroine you want to become best friends with. I’d like all my heroines to be like that. She reminded me a bit of Clara in Unearthly, the same snarky humour, ability to fend for herself, depth, great relationship with her family, insecure but also tough. I could totally see how any guy could fall in love with her.

Like other reviewers have commented, I enjoyed the original take on the plot, and obviously the pacing was great! I loved learning more, along with Emerson, what exactly she could do, what the Hourglass was, and the inner workings of time travel. It was all really interesting and had me on the edge of my seat the entire time.

I also loved the side characters, her lovely brother and wife who believed in her and her best friend Lily, who seemed to have a few secrets on her own. Can’t wait to see her character expand! I also loved Kabel, the other guy in the love triangle. Maybe even more than Michael. He was more open and showed more of his emotions than Michael, who was a bit more closed off and had that tortured thing going on about him.

Which brings me to what I didn’t love so much:

Michael, the romantic interest. I think I’m getting tired of male protagonists being portrayed as tortured souls. It’s worked before – I mean Jace! – but I feel it’s time to read about something new now. That being said, I’ve definitely read about worse male romantic leads. Michael was okay, just not very original.

The romance worked because I liked their chemistry and especially their dialogues together. But again, I did have a few qualms about it, or rather, there were a couple of clichés embedded in that romance that had my eyes rolling a bit. For instance:

1)  There is this electric current that goes through them every time they touch. I mean, light bulbs would literally go out when they touched, that sort of thing. Call me cynical, but it seemed a bit too over the top.

2) Michael keeps saying that he and Emerson can’t be together and I kept wondering, why not? I sure didn’t understand that, and at the end of the book, it didn’t seem to be much of a problem either. So it really felt more like a convenient plot device to keep them separated rather than a real problem.

3) I didn’t completely understand why Michael was being all that mysterious about Hourglass. Once again, I thought he was exaggerating that, or that he was mysterious for the sake of being mysterious. He’d keep repeating that he couldn’t tell her anything but at the end of the day, she was bound to find out anyway, and it sure didn’t seem to cause any problems then. So why the whole mysterious act?

A final qualm I had with this book was the end, which felt a bit too over the top. The villains were evil because..yeah why exactly? They were evil because of the sake of being evil? Too black and white if you ask me. It felt like a James Bond movie, where they have this long ooohahahahaaa talk about why they betrayed certain people and want to conquer the world. You know?

I didn’t completely buy into it.

But, despite all that, I sure flew through this book, in a matter of hours. I just could not stop! The number one reason, apart from a great heroine, characters and intriguing plot was the dialogue! It was great, fun, inventive and most of all sarcastic! I literally laughed out loud througout the book! So great job on that McEntire!

All in all, this is a great fun read and I’m sure to pick up the next book in the series, to hit the shelves some time next year.

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Review: Delirium by Lauren Oliver

10 Sep

Series: Delirium, book #1

Published: February 1st 2011 by HarperTeen

Details: Hardcover, 441 pages

My Rating: 2/5

My Summary:

I loved Oliver’s debut novel Before I Fall. This one however was a disappointment. The premise was interesting about a girl in a dystopian world where love is forbidden. But it turned out to be slow-going, with a sketchy world, a meek boring heroine and a shallow romance. The only good thing was the writing. Sorry to say I won’t continue the series.

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My Full Review:

As you know, I loved Lauren Oliver’s debut Before I Fall. Therefore it came as a bit of a surprise that her second book Delirium was such a let-down.

Since the hype surrounding this book was massive I’m sure you’re familiar with the general plot already, but here’s a quick reminder in case you’ve missed it:

This is a dystopian novel, set in a time when love is considered a disease and the root of all the problems of mankind. The government has decided it mandatory that all 18-year olds undergo a surgery to remove the part of the brain that triggers and senses love.

We meet Lena, who only a few weeks before the operation does the unthinkable. She falls in love with a boy.

Okay, so the premise sounded intriguing and I was expecting a similar roller-coaster ride as the one I was taken on while reading Before I Fall.

Instead I was treated to about the most boring story I have ever read. I got to the end, but it sure involved quite a bit of struggles on my part. Let me explain why:

The plot is practically non-existent for the first half of the book and then some. Meaning, you could easily flip forward a few pages and not miss a thing. Oliver writes beautifully, I get that. But I wished she would have cut some of her descriptions as they bogged everything down. It felt like the book could have been slimmed down 200 pages and still kept the story line intact. It felt like there was so much fillers!

I also had a hard time connecting to Lena, the protagonist. Do you remember in my review of Before I Fall how I said that the heroine was a breath of fresh air from all the other ordinary plain and meek heroines out there. Well, unfortunately Lena falls straight into the latter category. She did not seem to have one single trait to make her stand out. Apart from maybe indecisiveness and low self-esteem. How Alex would fall for her and not her charismatic best friend Hana is a mystery.

The romance was (once again) of that “fall at first sight” type which I am beginning to loathe. After only a few weeks of knowing each other, Alex and Lena are already proclaiming their eternal love for each other, where they are literally ready to die for each other if so be it. Romantic? I don’t think so. Stupid is more like it.

The boy Alex seemed like a generic and bland perfect-type of guy. Always saying the right thing. No chemistry nor sparks in sight. Yawn.

The dystopian world was a joke. Now, as you know, if a story pulls me in, I am more than willing to suspense belief of an incomplete dystopian world. Here however, because of a non-existent plot, the many holes in the world Oliver had created were kind of hard to miss. A couple of things bothered me:

1) Why had the government decided that love of all things was to be considered dangerous, but not some other emotion, such as hatred, jealousy, fear etc? What had happened that made masses of people beg to be lobotomized, to have their love removed? None of this is explained more than a vague “love made people do crazy things“. Sorry Lauren, but I need more than that to believe in the world you’ve created.

2) I found it hard believing that the pre-operated teens could co-live with operated adults and still want to go through with the operation. Wouldn’t any normal teen who hangs out with both loving uncured teens and cured glazed-eyed adults realize that something is very odd about the way this society runs? Wouldn’t tons of teens oppose to this operation? In for instance Uglies,which deals with a similar world, Westerfeld solves this dilemma by keeping pre-operated and post-operated people separate. Which made much more sense to me.

3) I did not see how the government could think this made for a more peaceful society. There were obviously a lot of violence going on, what with the raids, the crypts and so on. All the violence in the book contradicted the whole notion that love was the root of all the problems/wars/disturbance of mankind.

4) The government is said to be very controlling. Yet it seemed as if the teens could get away with just about anything, such as break curfew a number of times, jump the fence to the wilds, hold huge parties in abandoned houses, listen to illegal music on the internet and so on. I certainly didn’t get the feeling that it was all that controlling and I never felt scared of the authorities.

If I were to sum everything up, while reading this book, it felt like I was the one who had been lobotomized, to have love removed, because the only feeling the book provoked in me was indifference. Needless to say, I won’t be continuing the series.

The second book Pandemonium to hit the shelves in March next year.

Review: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

5 Sep

Series: No, stand-alone    

Published: March 2nd 2010 by HarperCollins

Details: Paperback, 470 pages

My Rating: 5/5

My Summary:

A cross between Mean Girls and Groundhog Day, this story is about popular and shallow Sam who after an accident gets to relive that same day over and over again, and learns to reevaluate her life and actions. Amazingly complex story, wonderfully fleshed out and real characters, and an ending that took my breath away. Simply put, a MUST READ!

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My Full Review:

Before I Fall is the debut novel by Lauren Oliver, a contemporary novel in the same vein as Alice Seabold’s The Lovely Bones, which I devoured a few years ago. It had received amazing reviews of course. Still I was totally and utterly unprepared for the emotional rollercoaster ride that this book was about to take me on.

Only one chapter in though, I knew I was in for something great because it captured me straight away. You know how it is when you suddenly start to curse every single thing you have planned in the next couple of nights (whether that be after work drinks, movie-dates or dinner with friends), because these plans have now turned into giant OBSTACLES between you and your book. Me this weekend: Who cares about the premier of Woody Allen’s latest film, all I want to do is go home and read my book!

Well, you get my drift. That’s how I felt, from the very FIRST chapter. So yep, the pull in this one is strong. Really really strong.

What then made it so special?

One major reason was the realness of it all. Oliver has captured the very essence of being a young adult here. I don’t think I’ve ever read about high school kids that felt as REAL as in this book, the insecurities, the clicks of best friends, the bullying, the school hierarchy, the do’s and dont’s in school. The coincidence that one person rises in popularity and someone else plummets to the bottom. Lauren Oliver took me on a ride that essentially transported me back into highschool, not always a pleasant experience. We all know how awkward those high school years were.

The main character Sam is one of the most popular girls in school and a bitch. Which, to tell you the truth, I found a refreshing change from those shy, nice, never-been-noticed-before-but-beautiful heroines that I’ve read about lately. Instead Sam is a shallow bully, stemming from fears and insecurities, who on that fateful first day worries mostly about how many popularity roses she’ll get on Cupid Day in school. Her click of best friends reminds me of Mean Girls with Sam’s best friend Lindsay as the  bullying leader and queen of school. What I liked though is that none of these girls felt like caricatures but were fully fleshed characters, that despite all their flaws and mistakes hade me caring for them. Well, apart from Lindsay who was, and stayed, a bitch.

After the accident on that first day, the story turns into Groundhog Day. That is, Sam keeps reliving the same day over and over again, learning how the actions of her and her friends have affected others. You might think that repeating the same day would get boring, but fear not! As Sam is looking for the way out of her one-day-repeat experience, you are wondering just as much as her, what exactly she has to do? Lauren Oliver cleverly serves us clues here and there to how all the events of that day link together. It’s like watching a real life puzzle come together and it had me transfixed.

I also loved watching Sam change. As you know, she starts out as a bitch but gradually becomes a less selfish person, someone who reflects upon her actions and who wonders if the price of popularity really is worth it. The ending is open-ended but beautiful, and very fitting to the story. Guaranteed to make you cry.

In short, this is one of these books that will have you thinking about it long after you’ve turned the last page. Simply beautiful. I cannot recommend it enough!

Review: Spirit Bound by Richelle Mead

4 Sep

Series: Vampire Academy, book #5

Published: May 18th 2010 by Penguin/Razorbill

Details: Hardcover, 489 pages

My Rating: 4.5/5

My Summary:

Rose graduates from The Vampire Academy and goes to the court with Lissa and other guardians. It doesn’t take long until she has a new crazy plan in store, to save Dimitri from the undead. I loved this roller-coaster from the beginning to the end all though the end was quite a cliff-hanger this time. Can’t wait to dive into the final book Last Sacrifice.

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My Full Review:

This is the 5th installment of the Vampire Academy Series, a series I have gradually got drawn into, the more books I’ve read. I devoured the previous book Blood Promise, where Rose goes to Siberia in order to find Dimitri and kill him. She fails that mission and ends up having to return to the Vampire Academy, knowing he is still out there in his undead Strigoi state.

Not many pages into Spirit Bound we learn that the tables have turned. Dimitri is now the one chasing Rose, and he is just waiting for her to graduate from the academy so that he can go after her. After the graduation, Rose and Lissa go to the court, along with other newly graduated guardians that are all waiting to receive their real-life assignments.

Rose however, has other things on her mind other than her new status as a guardian. She has heard rumours about someone once having restored a Strigoi back to the living. The one person that may be able to tell her more is Victor Dashkov, who is imprisoned in a high-security jail for his deeds towards Lissa (which you may remember from the first installment). Soon Rose has come up with a plan which includes breaking into Victor’s prison, and well, I won’t say anymore than that.

What I will say is that I loved reading the book. Let me break it up to you in points:

1) Adrian: Rose has started dating Adrian, and all though I am really a hard-core Dimitri fan, I can’t help but feel something for this guy. You can tell how much he cares about Rose, and it’s heart-breaking to watch, because no matter how much Rose tries to tell herself she’s over Dmitri, she is so not.

2) Lissa. Like so many other reviewers have commented, this is the book where Lissa grows a backbone, and it’s about time. We’ve watched Rose doing everything for Lissa (including drawing darkness from her), without really getting anything in return. In this installment, Lissa finally shows us why she is worthy of Rose’s friendship and devotion.

3) Dimitri. Well, I did see that coming, all though maybe not that soon. His depression made very much sense to me. Who wouldn’t feel depressed with those memories haunting you? I only hope he’ll overcome it.

The ending was a huge cliff-hanger that I really didn’t see coming at all. Can’t wait to see what happens to Rose and all my other favorite characters in the final installment The Last Sacrifice! All in all, a great read!

Review: Wither by Lauren Destefano

1 Sep

Series: The Chemical Garden #1

Published: March 22nd 2011 by Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing

Details: Hardcover, 358 pages

My Rating: 2/5

My Summary:

In a dystopian world where life span has been shortened to only 20-25 years of age, Rhine is married off to a wealthy guy to produce children. I loved the original concept, but quickly got bored when I noticed that the whole book took place within the house, and that nothing ever happened. The romance was non-existent and the characters underdeveloped. Won’t continue the series.

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A few chapters in:

This dystopian book by debut author Lauren Destefano created quite a stir when it the shelves earlier this year, receiving quite a few stunning reviews. Enough to peak my interest. It is also found at the top of my “next book to read” – poll. Thanks as always to all who voted!

And so, here I am a few chapters in:

As we enter the story, a couple of girls have been kidnapped, and 16-year old Rhine is one of them. She and two others are picked out and taken to a big mansion where preparations start to make all three of them wifes of the Governor Linden.

Meanwhile, we learn that genetic modifications of the human race has sucessfully cured cancer and other diseases. But now it has backfired, and created a uncurable virus, which kills men at the age of 25 and women at the age of 20. People desperate to find a cure kidnap young girls to be mated and experimented upon with young men.

Yes, this is truly a grim world. But intriguing, as I have absolutely no idea of what will happen (and you know how I love unpredictability in my books!). Rhine has just tried on her wedding dress for the first time, and is about to get married, along with the other two girls. Will she be able to escape? Will they find a cure?
 
 



 
 
After finishing the book:

Okay, so I’m gonna cut to the chase here: I did not like this book.

Surprising actually, because I thought I would, considering that favorite web sites such as yareads rated it 5/5.

Now, the reason why I disliked it, wasn’t because of the serious topics dealt with in this book. Topics such as polygamous marriages and a child brides. None of that shocked me. I’ve read and seen a bunch of books/movies far worse than that.

Nor did I care too much about the dystopian world not being sufficiently built up, like so many other reviewers have commented on. I did notice it, for instance that it seemed a bit strange that Rhine was able to roll around in silk, take bubble baths, and eat strawberries when supposedly the entire world (except the states) were lying below water. I also found it strange that when so many orphans were running around on the streets (given their parents’ premature deaths), there was still a need for “gatherers” to force girls to marriage rich men and produce babies. I mean, wouldn’t there be an abundance of orphaned girls willing to do this in exchange for food and shelter?

Yet, I can easily forget holes in a dystopian world if the story pulls me in, and this my friends, is where it fell short for me. Not the serious topics, nor the plot holes of the dystopian world, but the story itself.

You see, I found the story lacking. Rhine is taken into this house with her two sister wives, and forced into a marriage with Linden. Then what?

We learn that Linden is completely innocent (or naive) regarding how his three wives ended up in his house. His father is apparently the mean one. We are told repeatedly how that father is a huge threat, and yes, he is obviously not kind judging by the first chapter. Yet, we never actually see any proof of the supposed threat that he is, apart from the fact that he has this cellar where he performs dissections of bodies that have died in order to find a cure. Sorry, but that does not qualify as a big threat.

We learn that Rhine has a twin brother and is desperate to find a way out. Yet, I didn’t really see why she was so desperate. Sure, the house was a prison, but certainly a very comfortable one. Especially if compared to the harsh realities of the world outside. Linden is infatuated with her and grants her every wish, which makes me wonder: Why not just ask him to have her brother being brought there? Problem solved!

The whole book seemed to revolve around her wanting to escape, yet nothing ever happened. She would lie in bed, have a manicure, eat some strawberries, take a walk in the garden, lounge with her sister wives in the drawing-room, take a bubble bath, order some food and repeat the whole process again. Lie in bed, have a manicure, eat some strawberries…you get the idea.

It got so tedious after a while it took all my will power to keep going.

There is a tepid romance as well involving a staff-boy and Rhine, but seeing as he was absent for most part of the book, it was hard to care or feel anything for those two.

The only thing that I liked was the relationship that developed between the sister wives, and how they stood up for each other. The character that stood out the most was quiet Jenna. I liked her.

Other than that, it was just plain boring.

The sequel is called Fever, to be published in Feb 2012.

Review: Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception by Maggie Stiefvater

1 Sep

Series: Books of Faerie , book #1

Published: October 1st 2008 by Flux

Details: Paperback, 325 pages

My Rating: 2/5

My Summary:

About gifted musician Deirdre who meets and falls in love with mysterious Luke, who may or may not be a one of the faeries who are after her. Too many plot holes, a romance that happened way too fast, a Mary Sue heroine and underdeveloped secondary characters made this a boring read. Only the writing was good.

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My Full Review:

Meh! That was my reaction after finishing this book. To be honest, I had a hard time finishing it since my mind kept wandering off as soon as I opened the book. Not a good sign at all.

Why?

A couple of reasons:

Firstly, the romance is of the “fall at first sight” kind, and geez am I getting tired of those type of romances. Deirdre falls head over heels with this outwordly guy Luke, who shows up out of thin air one day to play with her on a competition. All we know of Luke is that he is good-looking and seems to be hiding something. Not much to fall in love with if you ask me. He is of course also suggesting that it’s dangerous for her to be with him. He’s not good for her, yet he can’t help being drawn to her at the same time.

Now, where have we read this before? Yawn.

Secondly, Deirdre discovers that some faerie folk, or rather a very powerful faerie queen is after her. Why you’d ask? Well, Deirdre, it appears, has some serious powers herself, which is intimidating the queen.

Now, about those powers: I like when a heroine discovers her strengths and tests them out, but this got a bit too ridiculous. I mean, Deirdre’s powers were at first limited to some kind of telekinesis, such as move a leaf across the floor with her mind. Then suddenly, she could build walls around herself, create giant hands to push dangerous creatures away, outrun hounds, start cars from a distance, read minds and what not else. I mean seriously, it’s not much fun when the heroine is this “can do all” – girl. What’s the challenge in that? I’d rather the author would stick to just one supernatural power.

Thirdly, there were threads left hanging just about everywhere. Things happened for no reason at all, and much was left unexplained.

Beware of spoilers:

For instance, I never got the whole story behind the aunt and why she acted the way she did. And why were all the four-leaf clovers left for Deirdre to find? What was the point of that? And how come Deirdre had access to Luke’s memories when he wasn’t even there? What happened to Rye the dog and how was it involved in the whole thing? Most importantly, if the queen just wanted Deirdre killed, why not just get it over and done with instead of going through all her loved ones first?

End of spoilers

In short, a lot of what happened didn’t make much sense. Or rather, it felt like it happened because it was convenient for the plot at the time. I also never got a feel for the characters, and consequently never really cared what happened to either one of them.

The only redeeming quality about this book was the writing, which is shown in the well drawn descriptions of the faerie folk. Stiefvater sure knows how to write beautifully. It’s a shame that the rest fell flat.

There is a companion novel called Ballad, but this is the end of this faerie journey for me.